WHEDONCON 2019 | ©2019 WhedonCon 2019

WHEDONCON 2019 | ©2019 WhedonCon 2019

WhedonCon 2019, celebrating all of the works of Joss Whedon while raising funds for charity, is coming up this weekend, June 7-9, at the LAX Hilton Hotel. Guests include Julie Benz (Darla on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL, as well as Rita on DEXTER), Summer Glau (River Tam on FIREFLY and SERENITY, the ballerina in ANGEL, Bennet Halverson in DOLLHOUSE), comic book artist Georges Jeanty, Dagney Kerr (Kathy on BUFFY), Juliet Landau (Drusilla on BUFFY and ANGEL), Miracle Laurie (Mellie on DOLLHOUSE), James C. Leary (Clem on BUFFY), Julia Lee (Sister Sunshine/Chantarelle/Anne on BUFFY and ANGEL), James Marsters (Spike on BUFFY and ANGEL), Damion Poitier (stuntman on ANGEL, FIREFLY and DOLLHOUSE, co-founder of the podcast ASK YOUR BLACK GEEK FRIEND), Camden Toy (a Gentleman/Gnarl/the first Ubervamp on BUFFY, the Prince of Lies on ANGEL), costume designer Shawna Trpcic, Jonathan Woodward (Holden on BUFFY, Knox on ANGEL, Tracey Smith on FIREFLY), composer Christophe Beck, Steven L. Sears (creator of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS), and many more.

This therefore seems like a good time to deliver a con report on last year’s event, which was held May 18-20, 2018, in Woodland Hills, so that readers can get a sense of what the 2019 WhedonCon may have in store.

Among the 2018’s convention’s many, many events are Q&A panels with the guests, Q&A panels by fans for fans, screenings of Whedon-related films, TV episodes and behind the scenes reels, and concerts.

During his Q&A panel, Marsters reveals what he was really thinking when he posed as Spike with an especially wicked smile in an image that became iconic. The shot was taken shortly after he’d become a series regular on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and he’d realized that he could afford health insurance for his children. Later, Marsters fronts the band Ghost of the Robot, which plays a blistering hour-long set (Ghost of the Robot has a Saturday-night set scheduled for this year’s WhedonCon as well).

B Dave Walters (also on the 2019 lineup), of the podcast “Ask Your Black Geek Friend,” leads a five-panel person on why diversity in representation matters. While the works of Whedon are touched upon, there are two broader main focuses of the discussion. One is how onscreen diversity in race, gender, sexuality and more can inspire young viewers to feel that they too can be heroic. The other is the right of people to imagine – and costume themselves as – characters of other genders, races and more. Actress Krystina Ariel, a black woman costumed as Wonder Woman, gives an impassioned speech about why it is not incumbent upon her, or anyone else, to tolerate Internet trolls.

WHEDONCON 2019 logo | ©2019 WhedonCon 2019

WHEDONCON 2019 logo | ©2019 WhedonCon 2019

Filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer is here, getting footage and interview for her ongoing SQUEE PROJECT, a documentary series about women in fandom. “I really love oral history, and I found that no one was paying attention to the work that women were doing – the fanfic, the fan art, the zines, the vidding [cutting together videos from series footage, using an already-recorded song as the soundrack]. And so I thought that was really important to document, and we’re in a position where a lot of the oral history is disappearing, because a lot of those women are dying. So I felt it was really important to talk to those women and find out what they did.”

Oppenheimer explains that the first episode, completed in 2016, is “mostly about identifying as a fangirl. And we talked to a lot of famous actresses. We talked to the Hillywood Girls, we talked to people from SUPERNATURAL, we talked to Amber Benson, and we said, ‘What are your feelings about the word “fangirl”?’ And we got a great variety of responses. Some are like, ‘I love it,’ some are like, ‘Why aren’t we just ‘fans’?’ The second episode was about costuming, cosplay, and identity. And it was interesting. Because I was going to do cosplay, and then when I started to talk to the older women who did costuming, they were very clear that this was not cosplay, this was costuming, and it had been until 1984. So that was really interesting, finding out the history of costuming, and cosplay, and how that came about.”

The new episode, Oppenheimer adds, is primarily about Whedon fans. “BUFFY gave us such a strong, wonderful [protagonist]. And all of them, all the women, all the characters of BUFFY, they’re all strong and fighting. And sometimes they’re weak, and they don’t know what to do. They’re like, ‘I can’t do this.’ But they do it. And I think that’s such a good message for life.”

There’s a presentation of Poetry in the Whedonverse, during which a number of the convention’s guest actors read especially resonant monologues from Whedon’s series. Many of these are speeches from BUFFY, originally given by Spike. The performers include Tim DeZarn (who is also a guest this year – he played the Harbinger in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) reading Spike’s warning to Buffy that she’s a little in love with death, and Toy movingly enacting Spike’s “You’re the one” dialogue. Then there’s Woodward reading a poem by William (pre-vampire Spike). This includes his invitation to Toy and Leary to do interpretive dance as backup. This involves increasing acts of contortion, culminating with a three-actor pileup. The panel reaches a premature conclusion, since the remaining actors agree there’s no following that last act.

Woodward later acknowledges he had no idea that the interpretive dance would turn out as it did. However, “That’s what you get when you ask for interpretive dance, is it not? It’s sort of what you sign up for.”

Especially when Camden Toy and James C. Leary are giving the performance, Woodward notes. “They were uniquely purpose-built for that sort of business, to leap right in and have your back. When you say, ‘Hey, boys, you want to be my interpretive dancers?’, and don’t ask them in advance, you know they’ll be there for you.”

Woodward is one of a select group (the others are Carlos Jacott, Jeff Ricketts, and Andy Umberger) known as the “hat trick” actors for having appeared in all of Whedon’s first three series: BUFFY, ANGEL, and FIREFLY. Consequently, Woodward has been part of the Whedon fandom convention scene from its early days. “It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. What a wonderful family to be a part of, and get to do this over and over, and see all of the people, all of the time. The thing is, they don’t tell you when you audition for it, a thousand years ago, that you’re about to be a part of something forever. And it’s awesome. Hands down, it’s a Constitutionally guaranteed right for freedom of assembly, to gather with others and discuss anything. I think [the framers of the Constitution] were more concerned with sedition, back in the day, but little did they know they would be enabling nerds.”

Currently a radio journalist with WFUV News, Woodward explains how his experiences as a convention guest have informed his journalistic work. “Because the way that people get together to like and do what they want to do turns out to be a large part of my reporting interests. People getting together to do what they love to do, and how they self-identify, from evangelical Christians, to gun owners, to basic Republicans and Democrats, and nerds, and insurance salesmen, who are probably also nerds, just everybody gets together and there are conventions like this happening every day, around the country, in every single hotel. People get together in like-minded ways. And that is totally affecting the body politic every single day.”

Asked what else he’d like us to know, Woodward urges support for local public radio stations. “National Public Radio is widely viewed as one of the most trusted news sources in the entire world. National Public Radio is doing great things and making great inroads to be a part of the American fabric of news, because of their dedication to being awesome.”

DeZarn has fond recollections of his time working on CABIN IN THE WOODS, which was directed by BUFFY/ANGEL writer/producer (and later Oscar nominee for his screenplay for THE MARTIAN) Drew Goddard, who wrote the script with Whedon. The CABIN leads, all newcomers at the time, included Kristen Connolly (later of HOUSE OF CARDS and ZOO), Fran Kranz (of DOLLHOUSE and Whedon’s film version of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING), Anna Hutchison (later of SPARTACUS) Jesse Williams (now starring on GREY’S ANATOMY), and the not-yet-Thor Chris Hemsworth.

CABIN IN THE WOODS was wonderful,” DeZarn relates. He wound up doing his scenes twice. “We got snowed out a little bit, so we had to go back. Joss was great, Drew was wonderful to work with as a director. The kids were all new then, including Chris Hemsworth. He was extremely interested in what was going on in my life. At the time, I had a son who had passed away about a year-and-a-half before. Chris had lost a cousin, and he came to me and asked me how I was doing, and wanted to talk about my son. And he was amazing. He was very young, and he was just so understanding and interested, and really the five kids I got to work with for those days I worked, for that short amount of time, were phenomenal, on and off the set.”

The Harbinger is perhaps the only CABIN character who doesn’t get soaked with blood. Is DeZarn disappointed or relieved about this? “It might have been fun to be splattered. You don’t get to see me die. It would have been fun to see how he dies. I think maybe he would be on the telephone, and he’s killed on the telephone.”

Leary does a presentation around the short film STUNT C*CKS, which he stars in and co-wrote with Michael Meredith. The film’s director, Tom Hodges, is also on hand for an informal Q&A.

Since doing STUNT C*CKS, Leary was in the long-running stage production HARD-ISH BODIES; he’s also in the short film adaptation. The actor slightly irked his costars during the course of the stage run by actually getting into shape. “It was supposed to be a show like MAGIC MIKE meets THE FULL MONTY,” Leary explains. “So it was about body positivity. So it was about, be sexy in the skin you’re in. Skinny guys, pasty white guys, larger guys, hairy guys. And I was the jerk who decided to go get in ridiculous shape for it, because my ego wouldn’t let me not. It’s all gone by now, by the way. It’s all gone.”

Really? Leary still looks fit. “Thank you. It’s all an elaborate network of trusses.”

Like many of his WhedonCon peers, Leary is a veteran guest of Whedon-related events. “I have just coined the term ‘Vampire STAR TREK’,” Leary says of the fandom. “I feel like that’s what we are. BUFFY has grown far beyond what it was ever supposed to be into this cultural, iconic pillar, almost. STAR TREK gained fans while it was off the air, in a time when there were no DVDs and VHS. So I think because of things like Netflix and Hulu and DVDs, the show has remained vibrant and still is kind of relevant, which is crazy. So I’m thrilled to still be a part of this.”

Miracle Laurie, who is currently developing the graphic novel-based series INSANE JANE, and her husband Christopher May, perform on ukulele as the duo Uke Box Heroes (again, on the 2019 schedule). Laurie explains how they first came together as a couple, then as a ukulele band. “We met in an acting class. So we knew we had that in common. When we started dating, a couple years in, my mom and sisters taught me how to play the ukulele. I brought it home, and he learned, and he was amazing, a really quick learner, so then we both got one and just started picking songs that made us happy, and now we’re a band.” Performing together at WhedonCon is “very exciting.”

WhedonCon 2018 is May’s first convention as an actual guest, although he has accompanied Laurie to several other events. “I think it’s fantastic,” May says of the fan gathering. “The support that these people continually give to folks like us is something that should always be appreciated, and we all are very appreciative of it, and it’s just a really beautiful community sharing. It’s a lovely, lovely environment to be in.”

Laurie agrees. “I love it. It was surprising at first to see the longevity of it, but now I think it’s really fabulous that everyone has this shared interest and community and something to celebrate together.”

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Article: CONVENTION PREVIEW: WHEDONCON 2019 preview and tales from the 2018 WhedonCon

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